ASTORIA — Developers behind Long Beach’s Adrift Hotel and Astoria’s Buoy Beer Co. want to open a hotel in a former seafood processing plant on the Columbia River near downtown Astoria.
The partnership has applied for a conditional use permit from the city and the project could go before the Planning Commission as early as December. If approved, the hotel may open sometime late next year.
The project comes at a time when some residents and political candidates have spoken out against more hotels along the river. The city is also in the process of drafting land use standards for the Urban Core between Second Street and 16th Street, the final section of the Riverfront Vision Plan that guides development on the river.
The hotel — described as a boutique hotel with luxury amenities — would occupy a long building on the river next to Buoy Beer between Eighth and Ninth streets. It could include as many as 40 guest rooms, as well as a small restaurant.
The building, along with another, taller companion across the Astoria Riverfront Trolley tracks, was last used to process anchovies before the fishery declined. The processing equipment was sold at auction last year and the plant has been vacant.
Developers plan to use the existing building over the river for the hotel and will not construct additional floors, said Tiffany Turner, the CEO of Adrift Hotels Social Purpose Corp. in Long Beach. They also plan to open up public access to the river from the base of Ninth Street, which is now blocked by a fence.
“Astoria is an amazing community and people want to come here,” said Turner, who, with her husband, Brady, operates the Adrift Hotel and the Inn at Discovery Coast in Long Beach, the Shelburne Hotel in Seaview and the Ashore Hotel in Seaside. “I think bringing in the right people that the community wants, to do work that the community can be proud of, is something that hopefully will set us apart from other projects.”
Luke Colvin, one of the founders of Buoy Beer, said they plan to enhance the building’s unique character, preserving the tall ceilings, wood floors and beams, and honoring the history of the riverfront and the building itself. He points to similar work accomplished at Buoy Beer, another former seafood processing facility.
“I think the same applies here,” he said. “Throughout all of the discussions it’s always been we’re going to embrace the culture and what the building is offering. We got out of the way of the (Buoy) building and let that building tell us what it wanted ultimately to be.”
David Kroening and Andrew Bornstein, the other founders of Buoy Beer, are also involved with the hotel project.
Parking will be the primary issue the developers will need to address to satisfy city code, said Rosemary Johnson, a former city planner who is reviewing the project for the city’s Community Development Department. The developers plan to use valet parking in a lot tied to the opposite building to address some parking concerns. They are looking at leasing additional parking spaces, too.
But that’s just from the city’s side of things.
“The concept of an additional hotel over the water and the public support or nonsupport of that concept is going to be a challenge,” Johnson said.
New development, especially hotels or condominiums over the water, has been at the heart of debates on the Riverfront Vision Plan over the past decade. The issue has resurfaced this year as developers eye the river for projects, and as the city hears input on what people want for the Urban Core.
City boards twice shot down a proposal by Hollander Hospitality to build a four-story Marriott-brand hotel, the Fairfield Inn and Suites, near the river off Second Street, despite an effort by the Bellingham, Washington, developer to redesign the hotel to echo historic cannery buildings. The project is in the Bridge Vista section of the Riverfront Vision Plan adopted in 2015 and hotels are an outright use where Hollander wants to build.
Several candidates for City Council have said they chose to run this year because they worry about further hotel development along the river. Some said they will push for zoning changes so that hotels are no longer considered an outright use in certain waterfront areas.
At a debate earlier this month, the candidates for mayor questioned the need for more hotels. Dulcye Taylor, the owner of Old Town Framing Co. and president of the Astoria Downtown Historic District Association, said she was disappointed with the “Fairfield discussion,” saying she felt the developers should have done their due diligence a long time ago. City Councilor Bruce Jones referenced a fledgling proposal to build a 90-plus room hotel off Youngs Bay and said Astorians need housing on the South Slope more than they need hotels.
The building Buoy and Adrift want to turn into a boutique hotel is located in the city’s Aquatic 2 zone, an area that calls for water-dependent uses but envisions mixed-use redevelopment.
Colvin and Kroening say there are few options when it comes to repurposing this type of facility. To Kroening, it was clear the building would not be profitable for seafood processing after multiple groups came through last year and opted to buy the equipment at auction rather than start up another plant.
Hotels that provide significant visual access to the waterfront are allowed as a conditional use in the Aquatic 2 zone if the project can meet the criteria in city code. “So when a planning commissioner looks at this they have to review the criteria, not whether or not you want something there,” Johnson said.
The building is not designated as historic and will not fall under review by the Historic Landmarks Commission.
City staff continue to process applications like the one from Buoy and Adrift under current city code while the Urban Core is being drafted.
“If an application comes in for some sort of development or project then we would process it just like we would any other application,” City Manager Brett Estes said. “There’s not any difference or any nuance — we work within the laws of Astoria presently.”